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Welcome to our Chamber Connection Newsletter!
In an effort to connect our Chamber Members to valuable news, information, and resources each month we will feature a spotlight topic to better connect our community.
This month's topic focuses on our Healthcare including resources, activities, member-submitted items, and more. Next month's topic will feature a focus on Shop Local.
February | 2022 | Healthcare
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This Month's Newsletter is Sponsored by Ritter Communications
More From our Newsletter Sponsor
Alma and Ozark first of River Valley businesses to be connected 
Colleen Nick (center) of the Morgan Nick Foundation accepts a $5,000 donation from Ritter Communications Marketing Coordinator Melissa Cole (far right).
Ritter Communications, a leading regional broadband provider headquartered in Jonesboro, is investing $12 million to bring 100% fiber internet services and advanced cloud solutions to businesses in the River Valley. Areas of Alma and Ozark were the first markets to be connected last August, and construction is underway in Van Buren and Fort Smith with initial customers to receive services starting in April.

Ritter Communications delivers a full suite of telecommunications services, which offers business customers access to high-quality and reliable broadband solutions, delivering speeds up to 10 gigabits per second of 100% fiber connectivity. New business customers will also have access to the new Ritter Communications Data Technology Center, equipped with a local customer support team to assist with all services, eliminating the need for third-party technical support.

"Access to quality broadband internet is a must-have for all Arkansas businesses. Our highly-advanced internet services utilize the latest technology to provide rural communities with the most reliable and affordable broadband connectivity,” said Ritter Communications CEO Alan Morse. “As we continue our efforts to close the digital gap in Arkansas, Ritter Communications looks forward to bringing our 100% fiber, state-of-the-art broadband internet services to the River Valley business community.”

To celebrate the arrival of services in Alma and Ozark, Ritter Communications recently contributed $5,000 to the Morgan Nick Foundation. “The Morgan Nick Foundation is grateful for the generous donation from Ritter Communications. We thank them for contributing to a cause that is so important to us,” Colleen Nick, CEO and Founder of the Morgan Nick Foundation said. “The $5,000 donation will help us continue our efforts to protect the innocent by educating our communities on child safety, and empowering our children with essential safety knowledge and skills.”

Ritter Communications is the largest privately-held telecommunications service provider in the Mid-South, offering world-class broadband fiber, telecom, video, cloud, and data center services. The company has grown rapidly over the years, investing millions recently in technology infrastructure, and is now serving over 100 communities and more than 45,000 customers in Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, and Tennessee. Headquartered in Jonesboro, Arkansas, Ritter Communications invests heavily in the communities it serves by deploying proven, best-in-class infrastructure and technology while coupling it with a world-class customer-focused experience.

To learn more about Ritter Communications, the services they offer, or to sign up now, visit

Info & News From our Chamber Healthcare Committee
Mercy Breaks Ground on Expansion of ICU, ER in Fort Smith
Construction underway on $162.5 million project, expected to be complete in 2024 

Fort Smith officials and Mercy co-workers took a step into the area’s health care future on Tuesday as hospital and community leaders broke ground on a $162.5 million ER and ICU expansion at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith.
Plans for the expansion were announced in June 2021. During a gathering outside the hospital Tuesday morning, Ryan Gehrig, Mercy Hospital Fort Smith president, said Mercy co-workers, patients and families in the region have been eagerly anticipating the hospital’s growth.
“We are blessed to have such supportive community members and co-workers helping us look forward to improved health care in the River Valley,” Gehrig said. “Today marks a huge milestone and a huge step forward.” Gehrig also acknowledged the hard work and sacrifices made by Mercy co-workers, especially the past two years during the pandemic.
Mercy Fort Smith will expand its Emergency Department from 29 to 50 rooms and increase capacity in the intensive care unit from 38 to 64 in a design that provides better workflow and flexibility. The new ER will allow for about 25,000 more patient visits per year and include special considerations for infectious disease and behavioral health patients. An additional 140 parking spaces will accommodate the expansion, with parking closer to the new ER entrance.
In addition, the increase in ICU beds will more than double the number of rooms capable of supporting ventilators. The building’s automation system is being designed to allow floors or pods to be turned into isolation areas as needed.
“We’ve been dreaming and working on this design for the past year or more,” said Ryan Geib, chief operating officer at Mercy Hospital Fort Smith. “This project will change the face of the building you see behind me. It will also change the way our community experiences care.”
The ER expansion includes a five-room secured area for behavioral health patients that is designed for patient and co-worker safety. Additional plans include a 22-bed observation unit requiring no renovation in the former ICU space​, helipad relocation that will improve the patient transport process​ and new gift shop and meeting room space.
Incoming Mercy CEO Steve Mackin acknowledged the almost 170 years that Mercy has had a health care presence in Fort Smith.
“This year marks 195 years of Mercy ministering to others — 195 years since the Sisters of Mercy began their work in Ireland,” he said. “And Fort Smith is the community we’ve been privileged to serve the longest, for nearly 170 years. When the Sisters arrived here on a steamboat in 1853, their bravery and can-do spirit taught us what it means to answer the call and go where the need is. While the city has certainly grown and changed, that determination is as real now as it was then. It’s who we are as Mercy, and it’s a privilege to continue to invest in and serve this community in both traditional and innovative ways.”
Baptist Health Fort Smith: Provides Healthy Living Tips to Cancer Prevention
Take Action for Cancer Prevention, 6 Tips To Reduce the Risk.

Although we know cancer is more prevalent in people with a family history of it, the reality is there are numerous environmental and lifestyle factors that can increase your risk. 

Some of these factors come from our environment, the food we eat, and even our workplace. Take care of yourself and take steps to prevent it! Here are six tips for reducing the risk of cancer:

1. Follow a Protective Diet
Making good food choices overall may help cut your cancer risk. A protective diet is mostly plant-based. It focuses on fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, beans and fish. If eating plant-based isn’t your style, be sure to stick to lean protein and make sure you’re eating enough fiber and nutrient-dense foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. In addition, foods that are processed and have added sugar, artificial sweeteners, and saturated fats should be eaten in moderation. Find out what a cancer-protective diet includes!

Needing additional support with weight management? Baptist Health Weight and Nutrition Center offers you the resources you need for a healthy and happy lifestyle. Stop by our location or give us a call (501) 202-2001, ext.

2. Quit Smoking in All Forms
Tobacco smoke has about 7,000 chemicals that can cause cancer in the lungs and other parts of the body, such the stomach, liver, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, and kidneys. Reduce your chances of getting cancer by avoiding nicotine in all its forms, like cigarettes, tobacco, electronic cigarettes; this also includes secondhand smokers.

3. Stay Active
The key to preventing disease is also keeping yourself active.

Being physically active will help you maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of various conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and common cancers. There are many ways to stay active during the day including using the stairs, walking the dog, parking further away from your location or completing chores around your home! Remember that any physical activity is better than none!

4. Protect Yourself From Sunlight and Radiation
The incidence of skin cancer is a consequence of prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays that damage cells in the skin. This type of cancer is recurrent if you are exposed to the sun’s rays during peak hours and artificial sources such as sunlamps and tanning beds.
Although the sun is the primary source of UV, you should not avoid it altogether! Basking in the sun for a few minutes in the morning can help regulate your sleep cycle, get you vitamin D, and strengthen your immune system. Next time you go out, protect yourself! Here are four ways to protect your skin from the sun.

5. Consider The Benefits Of Breastfeeding
Although breastfeeding can be challenging for some mothers, there are many benefits. The longer women breastfeed, the lower her risk of cancer. Just as breastfeeding reduces the risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers, it can also aid in preventing high blood pressure and Type 2 Diabetes.

Do you need assistance with breastfeeding? Baptist Health offers different resources to support you. Learn more by visiting our Breastfeeding Support page.

Additionally, Baptist Health offers comprehensive services for breast health, disease diagnosis, and treatment. From preventative screenings and ultrasounds to 3D mammograms and breast MRI, find the care you need at the following locations: 

Baptist Health Breast Center in Little Rock, North Little Rock, and Fort Smith 
Baptist Health High-Risk Breast & Hereditary Cancer Clinic

6. Keep an Eye on Your Workplace and Environmental Factors
Pollution in the air, soil, chemicals in food, and even hazardous materials in your work environment can be risk factors. Depending on how often or how long you are exposed, substances like asbestos, radon, soot and secondhand smoke can increase your risk of cancer. An example of a way you can reduce your risk would be to test your basement for radon and make sure the levels are appropriate.

Try to follow prevention and safety measures to protect yourself from any dangerous material or substance exposure in your work environment.
The Arkansas Colleges of Health Education Continue to Expand Educational Program Offerings While the Business Community Also Sees Growth on Their Campus
Arkansas Colleges of Health Education Celebrates the Dedication of its Health Sciences Building and the GroundBreaking of the third building at the Village at Heritage in Fort Smith in December. 
The 66,000-square-foot College of Health Sciences building is home to two of the newest ACHE educational programs the School of Physical Therapy and the School of Occupational Therapy.

ACHE also broke ground on the latest building structure for the Village at Heritage that will feature commercial spaces and additional residential spaces expanding student housing options.

Additionally, the ACHE's School of Occupational Therapy will host an Open House on Friday, March 11the from 1:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Methodist Village Senior Living’s Candy Striper Program Gives Young People Opportunities to Sample the Healthcare Profession
Methodist Village Senior Living’s Candy Striper Program gives young people opportunities to sample the healthcare profession.  Some Candy Stripers may come into the program thinking they want to be a doctor or a nurse, but by the end, they may be considering a career as a dietitian or a physician’s assistant. With the shortage of healthcare workers rising, interest in any health career is beneficial—after all, the youth of today are the future of healthcare.

Our goal is to provide positive, energetic students (ages 14-18), who are possibly interested in healthcare or other real-world experience, with an environment and an opportunity to learn, help others, build friendships, and give back. The program also aids departments that could use extra sets of hands. Volunteering is a great way to build character!

We would like to recognize and thank First National Bank Fort Smith for underwriting the cost of the uniforms for our Candy Striper Program.
Arkansas Blood Institute Seeks Donors
Get Free Expert Help from SCORE Northwest Arkansas to Start & Grow Your Small Business.

Winter weather has impacted the blood supply again. We have an immediate need for donors of all types. We need your help to rebound, recover and rebuild the blood supply! As the weather clears, please donate as soon as possible. Call the Fort Smith Donor Center at 479-431-5900 located at 5300 South U Street, Fort Smith, AR 72903.
10 Benefits of Wellness Programs in the Workplace
By Indeed Editorial Team

If you're interested in improving the overall health and wellbeing of your workforce, then you may want to consider developing a company-wide wellness program. In addition to establishing a culture focused on employee health, wellness programs also help to increase productivity, boost morale and increase teamwork. Learning about the many benefits of wellness programs can help you determine whether developing one is the right decision for your own company.

In this article, we discuss what a wellness program is, offer examples of types of wellness programs, and discuss the benefits of wellness in the workplace.

What is a wellness program?
A wellness program is any kind of organized activity in the workplace designed to improve and support the health and fitness of employees. Wellness programs could include fitness programs, health screenings, and preventative care and include activities like:

  • Stress management education
  • Smoking cessation programs
  • Exercise programs
  • Weight loss competitions
  • Wellness assessments
Submitted Chamber Member Healthcare Spotlights
Since 2015, Fresh Roots Family Counseling has aimed to be a steadfast provider of mental health services in our beloved River Valley. Our licensed professional counselors offer family therapy, marriage counseling, and individual and group therapy. We serve adults, couples, families, preteens, teens and toddlers. Our counselors are trained in various modes of therapy including Emotion Focused Couples Therapy, E.M.D.R., Play Therapy, Co-Parenting, anger management, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and Sexual Addiction Therapy. Whatever you're going through, we'd be honored to walk alongside you in your journey toward healing.

Looking to volunteer on the Walk Planning Committee?

Email for more information!

The Alzheimer's Association, Arkansas Chapter is seeking leaders throughout the community for the 2022 Walk to End Alzheimer's Planning Committee. This committee meets monthly to plan and prepare all facets of the event. Volunteers will work with a Staff Partner to recruit Walk teams, coach participants on fundraising, raise awareness of the walk throughout the River Valley and execute an inspiring event on September 24th, 2022.

Walk to End Alzheimer's funds the elements that move forward the Alzheimer's Association's mission, including:
A free, nationwide 24/7 Helpline available at (800) 272-3900, staffed with master's level clinicians
Global research efforts focused on risk reduction and early detection
Advocacy efforts at the state and federal level for increased research funding
Local support groups and education programs

The Alzheimer's Association recently hosted "Recognizing Fraud and Scams & the 10 Warning Signs of Alzheimer's" in partnership with the Better Business Bureau, where 127 individuals across the state learned about the latest scams, how dementia can increase vulnerability, and available fraud resources.

Join us in serving families who have been affected by Alzheimer's and move us forward in our vision of a world without Alzheimer's and all other dementia.
Family Caregiver Workshop for Caregivers of those with Dementia. Courses include topics such as communication, understanding behavior issues, nutrition, activities, and recognizing caregiver stress.

Classes are FREE! Available via Zoom or in person.
Welcome New Members
America's Car-Mart of Fort Smith
Aldi, Inc. Zero Street
Amy Adams, Realtor with Sagely & Edwards
Covington Court Health and Rehabilitation Center
Jaggers Properties
Mountaintop Home Inspection Services
Parker Chiropractic and Wellness
Perez Collision Center
River Valley Fencing LLC
Suburban Extended Stay Hotel
Uncle Paulie's
Upcoming Chamber Events
Craig Wilson from the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement (ACHI) will be our guest speaker on Friday, March 4th. Craig will speak on changes in Arkansas Law including one that extends Medicaid expansion coverage through 2026.

In recognition of “National Colorectal Awareness Month”, Craig will also share information about a newly created report, in partnership with “Fight Colorectal Cancer" that assesses the prevalence of screening as well as the gaps in access to screening in Arkansas.
Date and Time:
Friday, Mar 4, 2022
7:30 AM - 8:30 AM CST

Doors Open at 7:00 am, Program begins at 7:30 am

University of Arkansas Fort Smith, Smith-Pendergraft Campus Center, Reynolds Room
800 North 49th Street
Fort Smith, AR 72904
*2022 Ticket Pricing
$20 per ticket for Members
$25 per ticket for Non-Members

*Please note, individual ticket prices have changed. If you are a member, and need your Membership Login so that you can receive the Membership Rate, please call 479-783-3111 or email
Upcoming Chamber Connection Newsletters
March 31, 2022 - Shop Local
April 28, 2022 - Education